A Story of Humanity
Written By: Robert D Brinsmead
I recently read a religious paper and come to the conclusion that the author got the right answer, even though I question how he got there. It reminds me of what my math teacher said to me at high school. He looked at a math question I was working on and said, “You have made a mistake here.” “But, I replied, I got the right answer. “Well then, , you must have made two mistakes,” he said.
The worldview of the old religious grand narrative is at least (to use an expression from Joseph Campbell) two thousand years out of date. The grand narrative of the Creation of man in Paradise, the Fall, the great controversy between God and Satan (the children of light versus the children of darkness) the coming of a hero redeemer, the final battle between good and evil, the apocalypse, casting the children of darkness into Hell fire etc., this whole apocalyptic story was outlined by Zarathustra (Zoroaster) at least two or three hundred years before Moses – and neither Judaism or Christianity changed it very much, but copied it and took it over, tweaking it only a bit. But it entered Judaism in a big way during the reign of the Persian Empire whose official religion was Zoroastrian (including Cyrus the Messiah King) and whose language was Aramaic. This Zoroastrian influence flowed in second century BCE when the book of Daniel was written, mostly in Aramaic, and highlights the Zoroastrian doctrine of the physical resurrection at the end time in Daniel 12.
Why try to hang on to this old narrative as if the age of Copernicus, Darwin, the Enlightenment (with beneficial literary criticism), Einstein, and Quantum physics, did not exist. When the astronomers back in the days of Galileo first discovered sun spots, the pope was appalled. How could there be spots on God’s perfect universe? Is not this world the only place where there is any imperfection as a result of human sin? How wrong and back to front the Christian religious world was! But now we know there is nothing out there in the universe; no laws and no gods that are not also down here. We know that this earth is not the only place to have eruptions, fireworks, supernovae, collisions, and great wipe-outs. Since this age of Enlightenment we know that this earth is about four billion years old, and that there was a lot of dying going on here to wipe out about 99% of all life-forms that have existed on this planet; that all species that could not adapt were eliminated, and that death is part of the emerging process and is not God’s curse.
God is the author of life and death, death is written into our DNA, and is not God’s wrath but wholly natural. So how, in view of all this Enlightenment, do we cling to the old mythologies? We can be next to 100% certain that Homo sapiens arose in Africa and the story of humanity is the story of the Great Exodus not just from Africa, but from primitive, brutal existence of an animal inheritance (our cells and genes are that or other animals) and we inherit the same predatory, xenophobic, ban exclusionary, retaliatory violence of the animal kingdom. But we also have the rise and development of the human in the image and the likeness of the divine so that the real history of humanity has been a trajectory of constant improvement of the human condition which has accelerated in the last couple of hundred years – and here is a development and a future that, to use the words of the great scientist/philosopher Freeman Dyson, is infinite in all directions.
So yes, we can get rid of all these dark myths about some angry, violent and threatening gods, the burden of a perfectionistic God, the burden of human guilt and sinfulness re the Fall and all of that, because it is not only plain that neither humanity nor this universe has ever been perfect. We can look back through our telescopes some billions of years and see explosions and collisions of an imperfect and unfinished creation. Now if this is the case, then God must not be totally pre-occupied with our lack of perfection and therefore we need not be pre-occupied with human guilt, but we can see that the focus is on human development and the constant improvement of this world and the human condition (which has been happening and continues to happen anyway despite what the Pope now says and all the other environmental doomsters would have us believe). This world is a lot less violent and a lot safer for human life than it has ever been, according to tremendously detailed studies by authors such as Pinker, Payne and others. By the turn of this century our children will be several times better off than us and can expect to live around 100 years or more. Even today 60 is the new 40, and 80 is the new 60 – and that change has taken place in two generations or so.
I found Universalism in Matthew 5: 37-48/ Luke 6: 28-36, which was taken over from the Sayings Gospel Q – Jesus’s ethic of non-violence (no retaliation but endless forgiveness) based on his non-violent theology. Love your enemies because God does. Practice inclusive and unconditional love because God does. Don’t demand some atonement for those who have done you wrong (payback justice) because there is none of this in God. God is inclusive and shows unconditional love. The other side of the coin of love is freedom because love means total freedom. God does not intervene in human development, because love cannot override human freedom. God does not inflict retaliatory punishment. Punishment is what the wrong doer does to himself by damaging his humanity and his true self-development. But love is patient and kind, and keeps no score of wrongs. Love sees only the best in every person, does not ever give up, and never resorts to violence to achieve its end. Love is that “hound of heaven” pursuing with that “majestic haste and unperturbed pace” – whose gifts and calling are without repentance – love is eternal, meaning that there never was a time and never will be a time when we can cease to exist or can cease to be loved by that Source of Infinite Light, Life and Love.